Let’s face it: Content marketing has hit a wall. Everyone is looking for the next unique way to engage the broadest demographic possible, but they just can’t break through. Do you want to know why?
Go to the websites of startups, mid-sized businesses, and massive conglomerates. What do you see? They all have the same aesthetic, the same content, and the same tone — each packaged just differently enough to make them look unique. However, it’s not all their fault.
This Week’s Trend
Audiences want new content faster than marketers can provide it. Just as social media embraces trends, so do businesses as they market to customers. Once a company strikes a chord that resonates with the masses, everyone jumps on the bandwagon until the marketing strategy is wildly overused and therefore ineffective.
There’s a New Sheriff in Town
These trends have created a power shift. Rather than businesses dictating how they market to the public, the pendulum has swung so that marketing strategies are in the hands of the customer. Where Don Draper used to create ads that told you what was desirable, now customers tell marketers what is relevant.
The quick progression of technology in recent years could account for this shift of power, but the reason matters less than the result. Businesses are left to either try to create the next big marketing trend or ride an existing one until it’s out of gas.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Every business is sitting on a gold mine of content-driven marketing; they just haven’t tapped into it. The biggest resource for a company to market is its leader.
Flaunt What You Got
One strategy that has gained a significant amount of traction in recent years is the personal branding of business leaders. When you gain credibility and reach milestones in your industry, people want to listen to how you built your success. They want to hear your story.
The concept of personal branding started off fresh and unique. You had a direct line to the minds of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet through mediums like TED Talks and social media. They provided their own unique content that captivated audiences and brought best practices to light. But as with every new strategy, the process became formulaic, and the audience was treated as such. Personal branding became just another trend.
Just as marketing has become standardized and generic, so has personal branding. Owners and CEOs have turned into robots in what they say and how they act. It’s as if they’ve all gone through the same content coaching.
Perception of Perfection
Leaders are so concerned with slipping up that they won’t take risks. But when did being authentic become risky? Here’s the truth of the matter: Most people are drawn to the qualities that make a person successful. But the second you begin heavily regulating the way you think, act, and feel, potential customers are going to turn away. If you’re considering using authentic content in your marketing, here are two reasons to reassure you that it’s a good idea.
1. There’s No Formula for Authenticity
Marketing is all about creating a dialogue. Take a moment and think about the most significant conversations you’ve ever had. Did any of them begin with you using a formula for how to engage someone? Odds are that the conversation resulted from sharing a genuine moment with someone you valued.
If your business is truly seeking to have meaningful dialogue with customers, the best way to do that is to treat them like you would a neighbor or friend. All that’s required to have good communication is a sender, a receiver, and a medium. If you open up a deliberate channel, you’ll be more accessible to your audience and have a greater opportunity to create new ideas and strategies with them.
2. Authentic Content Can Be a USP
Every business tries to cultivate distinct and engaging content, but no one wants to take a big risk and be rejected. Aversion to risk hinders a potentially game-changing weapon in your content marketing strategy. Most companies tie their unique selling propositions (USP) to the features of their product or service, and that’s effective in its own right. But there’s one truly unique element to a business: its leader.
If you want to distinguish yourself by using a USP, try marketing your individuality. You may find that people want to be a part of something more genuine than formulaic.
Proceed With Caution, or Dive Right In?
In many cases, highlighting your personality with branding will end up garnering more respect from your customers than just going through the standard marketing motions. When your content is real, so is the experience your customers have. But if you’re not careful, this strategy can also go wildly astray.
The companies who have failed in this respect are well-documented, and their sales have suffered. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, Michael Jeffries, once said he only wanted “cool, good-looking people” to shop at his store and that “a lot of people don’t belong” in his company’s clothing. As a result, the retailer’s sales swiftly dropped by $60 million, and Jeffries was forced to retire soon after.
It’s important to remember that being authentic doesn’t require you to share your darkest secrets, political views, or controversial opinions with your customers. But it does require you to support causes you care about, answer questions honestly, and be genuine.
What Kind of Business Do You Want?
When push comes to shove, you have to choose what kind of company you want to be. Do you want your content to blend in with the masses, or do you want to build a business that stands out by genuinely engaging with customers?
The decision may seem easy, but “playing it safe” by employing tired and overused marketing strategies is precisely that — safe. You won’t step on any toes, you won’t alienate potential customers, and you won’t cause rifts in the business community. But you also won’t stand out or stay relevant. What is more important to you?